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Take Hold of Your Horizon

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(8/24) Greater Works

Today we are looking at 1 Corinthians 12:1-26, the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. We are on our ninth week of this series exploring the concept of Vision: what the church is, why it exists, and what it means for us. And today we are going to read how to see the Church come alive in our lives as we look at a letter that a pastor named Paul wrote to a church, talking about how God works through his people.

1 Corinthians 12:1: "Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." NIV

In John’s Gospel Jesus said, "You’re going to do greater works than me"? You see God works through us. Now most of you who serve do so quietly and humbly. You don’t want to be recognized, but every Sunday, Wednesdays, and any other miscellaneous day, we hold services and depending upon the event many people are volunteering on what’s supposed to be their day off, family time, or whatever, and they’re showing up to serve us. That’s awesome and we appreciate that and so we want to publicly say thank you.

And that fits in to today’s topic that ultimately, God works through us, His Church. Now, let me say this: Jesus predicted this would happen. In this amazing line in John 14, Jesus says, "It is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these" (John 14:10-12).

Now there are a few billion people on the earth who claim to be Christians, and for those who really are Christians, they’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit. They’ve been born again by the Holy Spirit. They’ve been taken from spiritual death to life. And what it means is now we can do greater works than Jesus. Not greater in kind, but greater in number.

You see, Jesus could only teach a certain number of people; He could only lay hands and pray over a certain number of people while he was in a physical body on the earth. But we have a lot more hands. We can teach, we can serve, we can pray, and we can care. You and I together, filled with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was filled with Holy Spirit, we can do ministry together to the glory of God. And if every one of God’s people does their part, we can continue the work of Jesus in greater number around the earth.

And so here, when the Apostle Paul talks about the Holy Spirit, he’s talking about the fact that what Jesus promised has actually happened, that Jesus had finished his work, he’d returned into the presence of the Father and sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to do "Greater Works" on his behalf as his people.

1. The Work of the Spirit

Now sometimes the church is described as a family, sometimes as the bride of Christ, sometimes like a military unit marching against Satan, and here we see Paul’s favorite metaphor: the church is like a body… we are the body of Christ. Here’s how Paul says it… verse 12,

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body" (1 Corinthians 12:12).

This is an amazingly appropriate analogy because it’s cross-cultural, it spans all time, and it always works. As a parent, one of the first things you start to teach your children is their parts. You know it’s like… where’s your nose… your ear... your eye… Right? You teach your kids the body parts, and so Paul uses the analogy of the body because it’s familiar to everybody, everywhere.

And so he says that a church is like that. It’s like our body and Paul’s point is that everyone has to be working together like the parts in a body. So he’s talking about individual members, he’s talking about fingers, toes, arms, legs, ears, eyes, and noses. These are different members, different parts of the body, and this is what we mean by membership.

The way it works in our church is that membership is realizing the work that Christ has already done in you as a Christian… membership is an invitation to become an active functioning effective part of the body of Christ. And so our membership class, which we are having one this Friday the 29th, is where we invite you to and tell you about our mission. It’s not just getting a title or privileged position, but getting a job description and something to do for the Kingdom of God. That’s what it means to be a member of Christ’s Community Church.

So the church has members… parts… individual Christians who are owning the mission of this church, who are making it their own and saying, "I have these gifts, these abilities, and I want to serve. I believe this is my part in the body, working with my brothers and sisters for the forward progress of the gospel of Jesus." And so what Paul’s saying is that we’re all in it together…

"For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13).

It’s all a work of the Holy Spirit and he’s talking here about Spirit baptism and not water baptism. This is when the Holy Spirit comes and opens your heart to the message of the cross. That Jesus died in our place, for our sins, forgiving our sin, and connecting us to God. When that awakens in you, it is evidence that the Holy Spirit has brought new life and new birth in you. So now God is your Father, the church is your family, and you’re spiritually connected to your brothers and sisters. And so Paul says…

"Whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink" (1 Corinthians 12:13).

So Jesus comes and he makes a new humanity. However we previously identified ourselves, whatever it was, all of that becomes secondary and what becomes primary is the fact that Jesus is alive, he loves all of us, and he made us family. And this is all done by the work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes you a Christian. The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit empowers us for ministry. And the Holy Spirit keeps us focused on the mission of Jesus.

2. The Work of Many

Now I hope this gets you excited. Maybe you woke up this morning and wondered, "Why am I here? What am I doing?" Well the Bible says, Jesus loves you, he served you, and sent the Holy Spirit so that you could be serving others and doing what it is you were made to do. That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit wants for you, that’s what he wants for me, and that’s what he wants for us. It’s the work of many!

You see, in the church there are lots of different people, with different experiences, different backgrounds, and different abilities. Everybody’s different and God looks at this diversity as a good thing. Here’s how Paul says it in verse 14…

"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many" (1 Corinthians 12:14).

You know, every once in a while as you’re reading the Bible something really funny happens or God says something funny and if you’re not assuming that God has a sense of humor you’ll miss it. Some things in the Bible only make sense if you understand that God has a sense of humor. And I think here, God the Holy Spirit, through Paul, is making a joke… he’s being funny... and he says…

"If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body." (1 Corinthians 12:15).

Do you see? It’s a little funny right? It would be like you looking at the person next to you and saying, "We’re different, I’m leaving."

Why don’t you go ahead and turn to your neighbor and tell them... "We’re different, I’m leaving." That’s silly isn’t it?

It’s not a good idea. The hand and the foot need each other, right? I mean, the foot walks to the refrigerator and the hand picks up something to eat. They’re a team. Right? They need each other and one without the other would be completely ineffective. So God is being a little funny here isn’t he?

You see, the Church, the Body of Christ, is the work of many. And its in the diversity of the church, that we’re reflecting the greatness of Jesus, and we want the church to reflect the fullness of Jesus and not just us. So, Paul goes on…

"In fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (1 Corinthians 12:18).

So God put the church body together just like he put our bodies together right?

As Job said, you "clothe me with skin and flesh" (Job 10:11).

And David said, "You knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalms 139:13).

Yet sometimes we are tempted to say, "I’m a hand, but I wish I was a foot." "I’m a teacher, but I sure wish I was a musician." "I love working with the kids, but I really wish that I could be lead pastor."

Don’t despise who you are. God decided what you would be. God decided where you would fit, and here’s why: because you’re needed. We need people like you.

In verse 21 Paul says, "The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" (1 Cor 12:21). I’m begging you, never allow this attitude to fill your heart. Don’t let this attitude settle in our church.

3. The Work as ONE

You see we need everyone. We need all of your gifts. We need all of your experiences. We need the men and the women. We need the young and the old. We need the rich and the poor. We need the black and the white. We need the single and the married. We need the Democrat and the Republican. We need everybody. We need all of your backgrounds, all of your experiences, all of your giftedness, because that makes us a better church and allows us to love and serve more people better. Do you get that?

The Apostle continues saying, "But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other" (1 Corinthians 12:24-25).

"God has combined the members of the body" so that we would do the work as one… so that we would do greater works… so I encourage you to find a place to plug in. Just find something and do it.

Which part of this body are you? Where do you fit? Some of you already know. Some of you are Bible study or prayer group leaders, some are greeters, ushers, sound, light, video, music, set up, tear down, kids’ ministry, administration, counseling, youth ministry. The list goes on. You know where you fit. God’s using you. And we’re thankful for you. You see, we need each other… everybody’s indispensable… and we’re all working in this together. When we work together, it’s a beautiful thing, more people get saved, and more hurting people get helped.

So if you’re here and you’ve never gotten plugged in anywhere, just find a place you’re needed and pour yourself out to the glory of God and the good of others. I mean, there’s a lot going on here, and what that means is yes, there are holes, and yes, there are needs, and I’d love for you to come with a heart to help, because we desperately need you. And so this is your invitation… this is your opportunity.

Here’s what I’m talking about: I’m talking about serving Jesus because he served us and he continues to serve us. Jesus came and served people. He feeds them, he prays for them. He does the work of preaching and teaching, he does the work of loving and encouraging, he does the work of raising up leaders and sending them out with the Good News of the kingdom of God. And then Jesus goes to the cross, he suffers and dies in our place for our sins, serving us. He rises to take away sin, to give us his righteousness, and to impart to us the Holy Spirit, and he keeps serving us. And when we’re serving, we’re serving the God who served us and who continues to serve us.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven he promised to send the Holy Spirit. He told about the work that the Spirit would perform in our lives. That the Spirit is our comforter, our counselor, our teacher. He convicts us of sin and righteousness. He directs us to a closer walk with Jesus and helps us glorify God with our lives. He gives us the power to love, to witness, and to do what God has called to do.

The Holy Spirit does all of these things, but only if we let him. He will not invade your life. Like Jesus, he waits for an invitation. Ask God today to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can use the gifts he has given you to build up others and glorify the name of Jesus. This is the "Greater Works" the Spirit of God works through us.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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